‘cars’ Category

2012 Kia Optima SX
  • on December 26, 2011 -
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2012 Kia Optima SX

With my Acura TL Type-S approaching five years old, it was time for my approximately quinquennial search for a new car. This time around, I seem to have surprised everyone I know by choosing a Kia Optima, driving it home in late October.

My decision basically boils down to value, and the Optima—just like its sister car, the Hyundai Sonata—offers a ton of it. Several friends have commented on my “downgrade”, but in almost every way that matters, this car is superior to my outgoing Acura TL, and it cost me $7,500 less than the TL cost me five years ago. Since cars lose value fast, I’m happy to give up the “prestige” nametags to gain extra features and save money. I came to a similar conclusion five years ago when choosing the Acura TL over another Audi A4, gaining a lot of extra features and saving thousands of dollars.

Some of the features that drew me in to the Optima were:

  • Heated front and rear seats, cooled and ventilated front seats
  • 274 HP engine that gets 20–25% better fuel economy than the Acura
  • Much better turning radius makes the car a lot easier to maneuver
  • Bluetooth audio streaming to listen to my iPhone music while it’s in my pocket
  • Keyless ignition so my key never needs to leave my pocket
  • Power seats with memory, dual moonroof, 18-inch wheels, navigation, rear camera, steering wheel paddle shifters, and lots of other convenience gadgets (including an air conditioned glove box—for my Coke?)
  • Five-star overall safety performance rating
  • Five-year/60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and ten-year/100,000 mile drivetrain warranty
  • Looks great!
  • Consistently excellent reviews by all the auto magazines and web sites
  • Transmission shifts much more smoothly than the TL’s

As usual, shortly after the purchase, I took the car to LA Tint in Sterling, VA for some 50/38 ceramic tint.

My only complaint with the car is that on some types of pavement, the road noise can be pretty loud. The Acura TL had a very quiet interior. If it continues to bother me, I’ll look into adding some sound insulating Dynamat in the wheel wells and a few other spots.

2007 Acura TL Type-S
  • on January 10, 2007 -
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2007 Acura TL Type-S

After 5 years with my second Audi A4, I decided it was time to give up driving stick and switch to an automatic transmission. I still loved the A4 and originally planned on getting a third, but when looking at new ones, decided that the price had gone up way too much.

A week before Christmas 2006, I started shopping for a 2007 Acura TL Type-S. Whereas my last three cars were custom ordered (and I had to wait up to 6 months for delivery), the nice thing about the Acuras (and some Hondas) is that there are usually no options – everything’s included. All I needed to do was pick the color and drive away from the dealership.

I’m starting a gallery of photos but it’s still pretty sparse.


I don’t plan on making many modifications to the car, like I did with the Audis. It’s already got far more power than either A4 did, even after chip-tuning the A4s.

  • A few days before Christmas 2006, I got the windows tinted by LA Tint in Sterling, VA. Once again I tinted to the legal limit of Virginia, which is pretty conservative at 50% light transmission on the front doors and 38% on the back doors and rear windshield. Whereas on the 2002 Audi they used a fully metallic tint, I needed to upgrade to ceramic tint for the Acura so as not to interfere with the navigation system reception.

The Car

There were only six exterior color choices for the Type-S… white, black, silver, bronze, red, and blue. The first three were right out, as not really my style. The bronze actually looked better than I expected, but was still not for me. The red was a beautiful color, and I seriously considered it, but decided I didn’t like the way it looked with the grey-painted alloy wheels. The blue was also a beautiful color, and looked great with the wheels. If the car had come with traditional silver wheels, I probably would have ended up with the red car. The two interior color choices were black with taupe (tan) leather seats, or black with black and silver leather seats. The taupe looked great in the red car, but definitely didn’t match the blue, so black and silver was the winner.

Some interesting facts and features about the car:

  • 286 HP 3.5 liter V6 VTEC engine
  • 5-Speed automatic transmission with manual paddle shifters on the steering wheel
  • Brembo brake calipers and large ventilated discs
  • Tire pressure monitoring system
  • Xenon high intensity discharge headlights
  • Rear-view camera
  • Power seats and mirrors with two-driver keyfob memory
  • Touch-screen and voice-controlled navigation system with live traffic updates
  • Bluetooth telephone link
  • ELS Surround 8-speaker stereo with subwoofer, 6-disc MP3-CD, DVD-Audio, and Aux-In
  • Two-tone heated leather sport seats


Feb 2007: Car and steering wheel would vibrate when driving over 45 MPH since it was new. Took the car in and they rebalanced and rotated the wheels, and the problem seems to be gone now.

Apr 2007: Several consistent and annoying rattles from the steering wheel, instrument cluster, and dash board. Acura fixed the steering wheel rattle but I need to bring the car back in for the others.

June 2007: Steering column still rattling, worse than ever. Acura replaced the airbag and it’s quiet for now. Also the back of the passenger seat came off and wouldn’t snap back on, so they replaced that.


  • on December 2, 2005 -
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2005 Honda Pilot

Kathie’s Isuzu Rodeo committed suicide on I-95 during a long drive from Raleigh, NC back to VA in January, 2005: it ran out of oil at 70 MPH. We had to get towed on a flatbed 100 miles back, with Kathie and Quinn trying to stay warm in the back of the freezing Rodeo while I was in the tow truck. The engine damage was too severe to repair, so it was time for a new SUV.

We looked at both the Toyota Highlander and the Honda Pilot. They were both really nice. In truth, I like the Highlander a little more than the Pilot, but the Pilot was heavily discounted, and we were able to get it for about $5,000 less than a similar Highlander. So far, it’s been great—much more reliable and comfortable than the Rodeo ever was!

2002 Audi A4 1.8T
  • on September 15, 2002 -
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2002 Audi A4 1.8T

I ordered my 2002 Audi A4 1.8T on November 3rd, 2001 from Audi of Alexandria. It was built on Decmber 12, and arrived at port in New Jersey on January 25, 2002. I picked it up on February 8th, so it was just over a three-month wait, which was a bit longer than expected. I sold my 1998 A4 at the same time.

2002 Audi A4 side view


  • In early April 2002 I had a local body shop paint the lower, grey plastic body panels to match the rest of the car. I think it makes a big difference in the appearance of the car. Side by side before and after photos are here.
  • On April 23, 2002 I installed my Caractere “C” wing. Some pictures are here though I should take some better ones.
  • On July 11, 2002 I had my windows tinted by L A Tint in Sterling, VA. I got 50% light transmission on the front doors, and 38% on the back doors and rear windshield. The tint is a fully metallic smoked (non-reflective) tint.
  • On September 14, 2002 I installed my Wetterauer chip. The chip increases HP from the stock 170 to 210, and torque to 250 ft-lbs.

The Car

I wasn’t thrilled with the color selections this year – it seems that most of the choices are neutral grey/silver colors. While those seem to be really popular, I like real “color” colors. I think the Cactus Green of my previous A4 was a beautiful color. For the 2002 I chose the Denim Blue, which turned out quite nice. Interior choices were beige, silver (Platinum), or black – I chose the black interior, which looks great with the blue exterior.

The options I ordered were:

  • Quattro all-wheel drive
  • 5-Speed manual transmission
  • Power sliding sunroof
  • Sports package (20mm lower and 30% stiffer suspension, 235/45R17 wheels and tires)
  • Premium package (auto-dimming side and rear-view mirrors, homelink)
  • Bose 200-watt, 10-speaker stereo with subwoofer
  • Xenon headlights with auto-leveling
  • Heated front and rear seats
  • Rear side airbags

It turns out that’s pretty much every option, except for the Ski Sack and automatic transmission.

2004 Changes

The new A4 has quite a few changes from its predecessor. It is slightly bigger, with a longer, wider stance and more passenger room. The body is 45% more rigid thanks to a new steel and aluminum frame. The 1.8 liter turbocharged engine produces 170HP at 5900 rpm and 166 ft-lbs. of torque from 1950-5000 rpm, and is the worlds first turbocharged engine to meet ULEV (ultra-low emissions vehicle) standard. The drag coefficient of the body is reduced slightly to 0.28, and the new aluminum suspension is lighter, improving ride quality. The spare tire is full-sized on a matching aluminum wheel.

Inside, new standard features include an in-dash 6-CD changer, dual-zone climate controls, 4-way power lumbar adjustment for front seats, and much more. The interior is several decibels quieter thanks to improved sound insulation. Four wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) is standard as always, with electronic brake pressure distribution (EBD), brake assist during emergency braking, and electronic stability program (ESP) to help maintain control of the car in emergency situations. Occupant safety is enhanced with front-impact airbags for driver and front and rear passengers, as well as side-impact airbags for all occupants and head-level side airbags which cover the entire area of the side windows.

1998 Isuzu Rodeo S
  • on December 2, 1998 -
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1998 Isuzu Rodeo S

This was Kathie’s first new vehicle, which she bought mainly to cart our dogs around in.